The 0.5m Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope housed at the Etelman Observatory is used by members of the VIRT consortium for various fundamental astrophysics research projects. Dr. Jim Neff of the College of Charleston is conducting a stellar rotation periods study using narrow-band filter observations of star-spots. Dr. David Morris of UVI conducts studies of Gamma-ray Bursts, high-energy transients and neutron-star binaries. Preliminary studies are underway to electronically link the VIRT to telescopes operated by collaboration partners from the Chinese National Observatory to perform coordinated around-the-clock studies of variable stars in open clusters and to search for extra-solar planets.
The Etelman Observatory maintains a seismic observing station in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico. The Etelman Observatory seismic monitoring station, together with others like it located around the Caribbean, provide near real-time information regarding recent seismic activity across the globe, but is especially focused in the Caribbean Plate region.
Scientists and students from UVI and the College of Charleston are investigating the rainfall patterns and distribution across the varied microclimates of St Thomas. Data from weather stations installed around St Thomas (and at the Etelman Observatory) are collected and stored at Etelman Observatory for processing and analysis. The ongoing project seeks to understand better how rainfall events progress across the St Thomas island and how they effect erosion patterns on the island.
Undergraduate Research Experience Opportunities
Undergraduate students from UVI and the College of Charleston operate the 0.5m VIRT, analyze and interpret the VIRT data, and study data from other science projects ongoing at Etelman Observatory including the rainfall monitoring program. These research experiences are invaluable in teaching the hands-on techniques of scientific problem-solving and analysis and provide research experience which is a highly coveting component of bridge program and graduate school applications.